Pensions - Articles - Sandwich carers face pensions double whammy

On the day that the Office for National Statistics publishes research on Britain’s 1.3 million ‘sandwich carers’ – those looking after children and elderly relatives at the same time – mutual insurer Royal London is highlighting a pensions injustice making life even more difficult for this group.

 According to the ONS research, sandwich carers suffer worse mental health than the general population and are more likely to be under day-to-day financial pressure. But Royal London analysis shows that this group is also at risk of missing out on vital ‘credits’ towards their state pension. In principle, those caring for a child or caring for an elderly relative should get NI credits towards their state pension.

 But credits as a parent stop when the youngest child is twelve, so sandwich carers with teenagers will not get credits through this route. At the same time, automatic credits for carers are only available to those who do 35 hours per week of caring and receive carers allowance.

 Many ‘sandwich carers’ will be juggling family and eldercare and may not be doing 35 hours so may miss out. (There is a scheme for carers doing between 20 and 35 hours per week but take-up is very poor). The result of this is that sandwich carers may be damaging their future state pension in addition to the current pressures that they face.

 Commenting, Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London said: “As well as facing mental health challenges and feeling the squeeze financially, sandwich carers also risk damaging their future state pension rights. The government urgently needs to review the support given to carers and in particular the gaps in the system of National Insurance credits for carers, to make sure that those who contribute so much to our society are not punished again. These rules represent a pensions ‘double whammy’ for those who are already feeling the pinch”.

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